Davide PetramalaJanuary 23, 2020

Customers Don’t Hate IVR, They Just Want Something Better

Modernized self-service is a nut that many organizations have yet to crack. From self-service portals to online discussion forums, companies are working overtime to deliver more seamless, connected, intuitive and personalized self-service options. Some of these options work better than others, but it’s safe to say that Interactive Voice Response (IVR) surpasses them all as the reigning champ of self-service.  

Take a Breath

Before you claim that people don’t like using IVRs, it’s important that we look outside of the traditional, touch-tone system. IVRs rose to fame in the 1970’s as a complex solution for the time. Today, of course, things are different. Keeping these old-school systems in place is like asking your customers to drive a car that’s 40 years old (we’re talking hunk of junk, not classic Mustang) when there are smart vehicles on the road. It’s a no-brainer to optimize the IVR for today’s smart, digital world. If that’s not enough, consider the fact that traditional IVRs cause more than half of customers to abandon a business, producing an average loss of $262 per customer per year. For a company with 10,000 customers, this translates to over $2.5 million each year.

In today’s digital era, cloud-based IVR solutions can recognize callers faster (removing the need to enter pins or passwords), become conversational (they can listen, understand slang, and provide more natural, human-like interactions), and even monitor sentiment to personalize messages and menus. IVR systems have come far in terms of their capabilities, and research shows customers actually want to use the technology if it’s optimized for intelligent engagement. Consider conversational intelligence: Gartner predicts that by 2023, customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service interactions compared to 40% in 2019.

Customer Experience Has Changed

The problem isn’t that IVRs have become irrelevant. It’s that consumers have changed, and they expect the companies they do business with to quickly evolve and adapt. It’s about moving away from interactive voice response to interactive customer experience; the latter providing engagement with customers regardless of how they want to interact with a brand. This is where Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) come into play.

CPaaS is a cloud-based platform that enables users with any level of expertise to easily integrate AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities directly into their existing telephony infrastructure (on-prem or cloud) to address differing customer needs while improving efficiency and costs. For example:

  • You could embed conversational intelligence into your IVR to automatically capture and process self-service voice interactions. By automating post-call disposition reporting and other form-fills like CRM inputs, agents can move immediately to the next caller and not be bogged down in error-prone, incomplete or time-consuming manual tasks. This would also enable customers to speak more freely and conversationally during self-service (natural language understanding technology would properly interpret to assist the caller).
  • You could embed sentiment analysis to evaluate language and voice inflections, helping improve overall quality of service and quantify attitudes, opinions and emotions. For example, if a customer is detected as being angry or frustrated, they could skip the rest of the prompt and be automatically routed to a specialist.

All of this can be done with minimal effort and at a fraction of what such an undertaking would have cost in years past. Think of it like Legos. Just like you can buy a Lego set to build a pre-defined project (i.e. a Hogwarts Castle or classic car), you can browse an open API ecosystem for AI-enabled “building sets” and merge them together to add unique new functionality to your IVR system.

Avaya, for example, provides an entire set of pre-wrapped burstable IVR with no infrastructure required. Organizations that are part of our DevConnect and A.I. Connect Ecosystems (ex: Google, IBM, Salesforce) offer their own pre-wrapped building sets around different AI-enabled solutions like conversational topic modeling and conversational intelligence. It’s all about what works best for your business. Invest in what you need, when you need it, to deliver an intelligent self-service user experience for customers regardless of how they prefer to interact with your brand.

The benefits of using CPaaS for conversational IVR are endless:

  • Predict intent to better engage customers
  • Proactively engage to avoid unnecessary interactions
  • Better detect fraud
  • More effectively capture data (and organize and analyze that data) to predict outcomes
  • Propose agent responses for more personalized interactions and cross/upselling opportunities
  • Deliver more in-depth, context- and skills-based call routing

The results: less transfers to default agent queues, fewer calls going out to live agents, deeper insights with in-depth reporting and analytics, a more dynamic, omni-channel self-service experience, better consistency across channels and touchpoints, and higher ROI.

It’s time for a modernized IVR system. Your customers want it, your business deserves it, and now it’s easier than ever using CPaaS. We’re not promising a “one and done” situation, but you need to take that first step. Learn more about modernizing your IVR system to meet evolving expectations from Director of Avaya’s DevConnect and A.I. Ecosystems, Jon Alperin.

Customers Don’t Hate IVR, They Just Want Something Better

Davide Petramala

Davide is an accomplished business development leader offering over 20 years
of experience evangelizing and promoting disruptive technology around communications and collaboration. He is driven to evangelize how mobile and cloud technology will disrupt and change the way businesses operate and collaborate.

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